Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shield of Lies

Last night I finished the second book in the Star Wars "Black Fleet Crisis" trilogy, Shield of Lies, by Michael P. Kube-McDowell. I had read the first one back in mid-July and it just wasn't good enough to make me want to rush out and read the next one. But since I am a completest and I want to finish the trilogy by the end of the year I decided it was time to get moving on the second one.

Despite all of the negative reviews on Amazon, I actually like this one a lot more than the first. It suffers from the age old problem of being the middle book of a trilogy and Mr Kube-McDowell apparently chose to tackle that in a slightly different way. Part of the problem I had with the first book was its tendancy to quickly jump around from one group of people to another, with a different point-of-view character all the time. It tried to be about too many things. This time, the author chose to boil it all down to three main threads each of which gets its own section. Thus there is a section, about 100 pages long, about what Lando is doing and then we move to another 100 page section on what Luke is doing and finally we end up with the rest of the book about what Leia is doing (and how Han is trying to support her). So in a way it reads like three novellas; each section has very little to do with the others except that they are occurring at the same time.

For me that was easier to read. I could keep track of what was happening much better and I had a chance to get to know the lesser characters before jumping off to another part of the galaxy. The book still has some areas that were difficult for me to follow because they dealt with minor characters I had never heard of before, usually aliens of some kind and I wasn't sure how they related to the greater plot. Perhaps the very knowledgeable Star Wars fan would be better off than I, but it can be tough to read about a character named Fr'zu'lk who happens to be of the Mazzanik race and have the scene start off as if you already know who they are and what they look like. I'm making up that name and race because I don't have the book in front of me now but they might as well be the real names used in the book because I never did learn anything about Fr'zu'lk during his two paragraphs and we never return to him. I wonder if the author was just trying to add "realism" to the Star Wars universe or perhaps please the super fans but he failed on that score with readers like me.

Having said that, there are some intriguing plot points developing in this trilogy and the author does succeed at building a good setup for the final book. Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando are all deeply involved with their individual story arcs and I really expect they will all come together in the final novel. I won't wait as long to read that one either because I do want to know what happens next.

I also read the next essay entry in The Essential Ellison, a huge collection of Harlan Ellison's works. Following the essay on his father and how little he really knew him, Ellison presents "My Mother," originally a newspaper column entry. He reveals more about his childhood and how he was sort of the black sheep of the family. He includes the eulogy he gave at her funeral and the reaction he got from family members. There is no doubt about his writing ability; his essays are intresting indeed but I look forward to a return to his short stories.

Next up is a Vine program entry: House of Reckoning by John Saul

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire